A review: The Explore Program in Chicoutimi

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A few of you have been asking about the Explore Program (a five-week language-immersion program).

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I did the Explore Program in Spring 2012 in Chicoutimi. Never heard of it? Chicoutimi is an awesome, very-francophone city (60,000 people, 98% francophone) located by the Saguenay and Chicoutimi rivers, just about a 3 hour drive north-east of Québec City.

With that said, onto your questions!

Should I do Explore? At what level of French?

Yes! Do Explore. But…

To get the most out of the program, I think having the basics down is important (although not necessary). Brush up on basics (ex. conjugation rules) so that you can move beyond them during the program. (This is my opinion though, you can do the program at any level of language proficiency.)

Some more advice: Really commit to speaking French during the program. You sign a contract to speak French 100% of the time and if you cheat, you’ll probably end up regretting missing out on progressing in your language learning.

I’m convinced about going to Explore, but should I go to Chicoutimi?

Chicoutimi. I mean, how do you even say that?!

My answer: It depends.

Chicoutimi is A-W-E-S-O-M-E. But there are some things to consider:

Do you love doing awesome things? Example: meeting francophones, playing sports, meeting people from all over Canada, volunteering at a farm, learning lots of French, swimming by mini-waterfalls, experiencing Quebecois culture, talent shows, improv, meeting Glendonites (I ended up in the same apartment as Sarah Campeau!), carnivals, and whale-watching?

Then yes, go.

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I personally loved Chicoutimi and I was so glad I went there. There are a few things to consider in deciding if Chicoutimi is right for you:

Do you want university credits and/or to stay with a host family?

Chicoutimi offers both. The advantage of getting uni credits is that you can save time and money on doing those courses during the academic year. A host family is helpful because conversing francophones is the. best. way. to learn French.

Do you want a vibrant city with an awesome night-life or a more laid-back town?

Chicoutimi has a few bars and karaoke places, but compared to a place like Toronto, it is pretty small. Its downtown core is essentially one street.

That being said, I really enjoyed its laid-back restaurants, Kambio Café (a fair-trade type place with a weekly coffee house show), and the river that I could walk to from my residence.

How far are you willing to travel? 

Chicoutimi is far (from Toronto). Driving with no breaks or stops is 10 hours. So be ready to pay for a plane ticket or make the trip by bus for… a while.

chicoutimi map

Do you enjoy the Québecois accent?

I adore it. Not all people do. (Keep in mind French is spoken with different kinds of accents, just like English!)

My teacher is the grinning one in the black dress. She was PHENOMENAL and totally Quebecois.

My teacher is the grinning one in the black dress. She was PHENOMENAL and totally Quebecois.

Well I can only say so much. This video basically sums everything up and lets you see what everything looked like. If you have other questions, leave them in the comments or on Formspring!